The Brooklyn Nets are off to a strong start in the second half of the season. They went 2-0 last week, with wins against the Celtics and the Pistons. Brooklyn is scorching hot, having won 12 of their last 13 games. As the Nets continue to compete with the 76ers for first place in the eastern conference, it is important they keep up their excellent play. Brooklyn enters the week at 26-13, 1 game behind Philadelphia for the top seed. This week, Brooklyn will play four games in which they will look to stay hot. They will face the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards.
Kevin Durant will remain sidelined for the entire week, and potentially more. The Nets continue to work Durant back from his hamstring injury, and clearly will remain cautious with their oft-injured superstar. In Durant’s absence James Harden and Kyrie Irving will continue to lead Brooklyn. The star tandem has been incredible even without Durant, as they’ve won their last 10 games they’ve played together. Will they continue their winning ways? Let’s take a look at Brooklyn’s upcoming matchups, and what to watch for in the week ahead.
Monday, March 15th- Brooklyn Nets vs New York Knicks
In the first matchup of the week, the Nets will host their cross-town rivals, the New York Knicks. In recent seasons, the Knicks have been perpetually one of the league’s worst teams. This season, however, they are a much different team than fans have grown accustom to seeing. Under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have a respectable record of 20-19, good for 7th in the eastern conference.
While they are still far from contention, New York has shown they aren’t a matchup to be taken lightly. Led by first year all star Julius Randle, the Knicks are winning games by playing excellent defense and playing together. The Nets last faced the Knicks in January, a game Brooklyn won by a score of 116-109. Neither Irving nor Harden played in this game, and the KD-led Nets had no problem securing the victory. On paper, this is a fairly easy matchup for Brooklyn and one they should win with relative ease. Still, the Knicks have won games against the Jazz, Bucks, Celtics, and Blazers this season, showing they can provide a challenge even for the league’s premier teams.
In the “battle for New York” , Thibodeau’s squad should be fully expected to give the Nets everything they’ve got. Even despite their best efforts, the Knicks won’t have enough to take down a Brooklyn team that is currently firing on all cylinders. This is a game fans will be excited for, and their should be plenty of energy from both teams. One thing is for sure, IF Brooklyn were to come up short and lose to the ‘lesser’ team in New York, it will be a major headline for the Knicks. Fans, media, and analysts alike will rave, and it will probably be talked about for weeks. The Nets need to take care of business here, and make sure that doesn’t happen.
Wednesday, March 17th- Brooklyn Nets @ Indiana Pacers
On Wednesday, the Nets begin a brief two game road stint with a trip to Indiana. After finishing 4th in the eastern conference a year ago, the Pacers have been a disappointment thus far this season. Indiana has struggled to a 17-20 record, leaving them at 9th in the eastern conference. They enter Wednesday night’s matchup with Brooklyn having lost 6 of their last 8 games. Brooklyn defeated Indiana by a score of 104-94 the last time these teams played, a little over a month ago. On the bright side for Indiana, Caris LeVert finally made his Pacers debut on Saturday, helping his new team to a victory over the Suns. This will be LeVert’s first game back in Brooklyn since being traded as a part of the Harden deal.
Undoubtedly, the moment will be bittersweet for the Nets, as LeVert was incredibly beloved among both players and fans alike. However, After suffering a scary injury that was almost life threatening, it is a pleasure and relief to see LeVert is healthy again. His return could make a huge difference for a Pacers team that is struggling, but still talented. With Levert, all star Domantas Sabonis, and high level starters in Myles Turner and Malcom Brogdon, the Pacers are a team that can turn things around quickly. Having LeVert on board may lead to Indiana looking much more like the team we saw last season. Again, Brooklyn is still the far superior team, and should take care of this game as well. Though it won’t be an easy victroy, expect this to be another game in the win column for the Nets.
Friday, March 19th- Brooklyn Nets @ Orlando Magic
Next up for Brooklyn will be a trip to Orlando to take on the Magic. The Magic have been one of the worst teams in the NBA this year. At 13-26, they have the second worst record in the eastern conference. They do boast an all star in C Nikola Vucevic , but they don’t have much else around him. They are currently in a freefall, having loss 8 games in a row. This game will be the 3rd time these two teams have faced this season, with Brooklyn winning the first two. The first game was a 122-115 victory for Brooklyn in James Harden’s first game with the team. In their most recent matchup, the Nets dominated the magic by a score of 129-92. The Nets could sit one of their stars (maybe they will) and still have no problem handling Orlando. Brooklyn should win this game against a far inferior team with ease.
Sunday, March 21st- Brooklyn Nets vs Washington Wizards
The Nets will return to Barclays Center on Sunday to close out their week with a matchup against the Washington Wizards. Washington, led by the star backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal , is another team that has disappointed this season. Their superstar duo hasn’t been enough to keep the Wizards afloat this season. Currently at 14-23, the Wizards team has lost 3 in a row and 5 of their last 6. With that record, it would be easy to write off the Wizards as an easy victory.
On the contrary, the Wizards are just a few weeks removed from a stretch where they won 7 of 8 games, including wins against the Lakers, Nuggets (twice), Celtics, Clippers and Blazers. In fact, the Wizards have played two games against Brooklyn this season, and won both times. The first game was back in January, a 123-122 victory for Washington in which KD and Kyrie both missed potential go-ahead shots down the stretch. The previous matchup between the two resulted in a crushing loss for Brooklyn. Despite being up 5 in the final ten seconds, the Nets blew the game. A late steal and 3 pointer by Westbrook capped off a 41 point outing for him, as he and Beal combined for an incredible 78 points.
The Nets haven’t forgotten what the Wizards did to them twice this season, stealing two games in heart-breaking fashion. Expect coach Nash to get his team fired up for a bounce back victory against Washington. On paper, this is yet another matchup that should be an easy win for one of the league’s best teams. However, if Washington has proved anything this season, they’ve shown that their star duo can pull off a surprising victory against a top team on any given night. The Nets can’t allow themselves to lose a third straight game against one of the weaker teams in the East.
Eventually, the Brooklyn Nets’ hot streak will come to an end and they will begin to lose a few games. I don’t expect that to happen this week. Showing no signs of slowing down, I fully expect James Harden and Kyrie Irving to keep the Nets playing at an elite level. Brooklyn will likely have one or two challenging matchups this week. Indiana and Washington will play the Nets hard and close. Ultimately, though, my prediction is the Nets prevail en route to a 4-0 week. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, and there won’t be a force strong enough to slow down the red-hot Nets this week.